Chapter 20

The grey sky gave him a good excuse to leave the confines of the castle. He told Stephen, King of Astarathe, that he would look into this sudden patch of gloomy days and vow to try and bring out the sun once again.

Although Finnegan the wizard had other plans in mind. These plans took place in a cave that was not so far from the camp that Zwain, this apparent other wizard, entered into this realm through a portal. Finnegan had conjured up countless spells, could even make things levitate for short distances; but the ability to open up a rift and pass through it? No one had such power. No one that Finnegan knew of, anyhow.

That’s what gave credence to the story behind this Zwain character. his clothes were odd, his speech was odd. This Zwain was not from around here. The craftsmanship of his instrument was unlike anything Finnegan has ever seen before.

Zwain had demonstrated the method at which he came to open the portal. He played the part of the solo that triggered it to open, but it was flat, dull and music-less. No portal had opened. Before the trial Finnegan had administered truth dust into the man’s lungs. As unlikely as he was to be from another time and place, a person capable of overpowering that dust was even less likely. So Finnegan took the guitar after having Zwain condemned to the dungeon for the rest of his life.

Finnegan was happy about the King’s “compromise”. To save face, Finnegan needed to ask for the head of the supposed wizard, but didn’t want to lose a potential specimen. To learn this portal ability would make Finnegan the most powerful wizard in the world, never mind just the realm.

He approached a sheer cliff face and scanned his surroundings, making sure no one had followed him. When he was sure he was alone, Finnegan performed a ritual: he snapped the fingers on both his hands, brought them down with a slap onto his knees and finished it off by clapping them together. The surface of the rock wall slid over to the right, revealing a deep, dark cave. Finnegan entered and gave a quick snap of his fingers. One by one the torches along the wall light up with a bright orange fire. This trickery was one that he did not share with the rest of the realm, he feared the crowds it would bring if the people know about it.

Finnegan continued down the path until he came to a wide room. In here was various assortments of tables, flasks, vials and chemicals. Not all magic could be done with the snap of a finger, some required potions and alchemy. A lot of the King’s fortune was really just lead before Finnegan changed it all into gold.

Sitting alone on a table in the center of the room was Zwain’s guitar. Every couple of days for the last fortnight, Finnegan had been coming out here and examining this wondrous thing. He tried playing those same notes Zwain played for the king, but still nothing happened. Zwain had made mention that volume was a factor. That when he did it, he had a bunch of what he called speakers to amplify the guitar loud enough to open the portal.

On the last couple of visits, Finnegan was working in a little alcove of the corner of his cave. He kept polishing crystals, and placing them a varying distances from each other. Then he would speak, making the crystals vibrate; amplifying his voice even louder as it escaped out into the rest of the cave. He tied a piece of fabric to a stick ten feet out in front and gauged how much it waved in the sound. Then he would keep tweaking the crystals hoping to increase the volume enough to make this portal instrument work.

Finnegan had finished a new alignment for the crystals when there came a pounding way back at the entrance to his cave. As a test, hoping the sound waves carried far enough down, Finnegan stood in the center of the alcove, and did the opening ritual once again. The fabric flag fluttered as though a gentle wind passed through it. Finnegan paused, thinking that the sounds never made it all the way back to the entrance, but then he felt a slight rumbling, followed by the panting and wheezing of his visitor.

Finnegan rolled his eyes as he walked to the center of the room, “What is it now, Bartleby?”

A hulking green creature jogged around the corner and stopped, breathing heavily. Bartleby was small for an orc, but still massive when compared to a human. He was also the smartest out of all the orcs, having to use his brains to survive since his size could not withstand the strength of his brethren. When Unklar was chief, Bartleby was the translator used to communicate deals with the wizard. Now that Unklar was dead, Bartleby started assuming the roll of the chief. The rest of the orcs may not have cared for this, but the promises the wizard had made were worth waiting until the mission was done before someone else tried to claim the right by force. In the meantime, Bartleby got to keep his head on his shoulders, so long as he kept talking to Finnegan.

Finnegan scowled at his visitor, the creature was still struggling to catch his breath. “Well? I don’t have all afternoon. I’m supposed to be making the sun come out. Even if the King doesn’t remember how quick that job is, surely someone else on his council will. So make it quick.”

“Bartleby sorry, Finnegan-man. Me just wondering about payment. Others be getting restless. Want payment now.”

“Bartleby, Bartleby, Bartleby. I told you. Payment comes once all is complete. When I sit upon the throne that our dear Stephen currently sits, then I shall give your clan all the riches it has earned. Now, with the loss of Unklar, and his entire squad, there is a bit of a setback, but I’m currently working on getting around that. I am nearly there, but your interruption is costing me time.”

“Others not listen to Bartleby no more. Say they’ll wipe out castle right now.”

“You need to keep them at bay. If they go now, they will just beat their heads against the castle walls. Not enough of you will survive to try again later. So we need to wait until the moment is right. With Leopold still alive, the moment currently isn’t right.”

“Leopold-man King’s cousin?”

“That he is. The only heir that is currently alive. How else could anyone that stupid get on the King’s council. Unklar was supposed to take him out before all of this portal business. It was a good thing this Zwain came when he did. He provided enough of a distraction so that Leopold could not tell that Unklar’s camp was made from materials stolen from the castle. I wasn’t counting on the bastard surviving the encounter so I didn’t think to keep those elements concealed. That’s what I get for rushing this whole thing.”

“So what new plan?”

Finnegan walked over to Zwain’s guitar and held it up to the orc, “This! With this we can open a portal to let you and the rest of your clan just walk into Steveston as if the walls weren’t even there, allowing you to wipe out every human soul in that place. With the exception of yours truly. Then with all the King’s council out of the way, and no more heirs to claim the throne, I shall sit upon it and rule all of Astarathe.”

“Sounds pretty easy.”

“Precisely! So simple, even an orc can pull it off. And I don’t mean just you, dear, smart Bartleby. I mean even a walking boulder like Unklar, with barely enough brains to shit.”

“You no speak bad of chief. He great orc.”

“Oh, he was, Bartleby. Now it is your time to shine. The orc who made the lives of all orcs worth living. The orc who made them equal to mankind in the eyes of the King. Lord Bartleby, Steward of the Orcs.”

Bartleby`s cheeks flushed a dark purple. He was the only orc smart enough to know he was being flattered, but not smart enough to know his buttons were being pushed by Finnegan. In a way, Finnegan was happy that Unklar was dead. This orc is much easier to control.

“Now run along, Bartleby, and keep your clan together. I’m not far off now, so make sure you are ready to move out at a moment’s notice.”

Bartleby nodded and trotted off back towards to the cave entrance. Finnegan walked back to the alcove, now equipped with the guitar. He heard a loud “Ow!” as Bartleby failed to notice that the door was closed. Finnegan rolled his eyes at the stupidity of these beasts and performed the opening ritual.

“Danks, ” travelled down the pathway from Bartleby and then the orc was gone.

Finnegan played the guitar and this time the crystals hummed out a melodic tune that sounded remarkably close to an actual amp, if only Finnegan knew what that sounded like.The fabric even fluttered in the sound waves, but still nothing happened. Finnegan tried again, slamming his thumb down on the strings trying to make it as loud as possible and once more there was nothing.

“I wonder if I’m remembering the notes correctly,” muttered Finnegan. “I need to get Zwain to play them for me once more, and pay closer attention to them. Now how to do with without drawing extra suspicion.”

Finnegan remembered Leopold mentioning Zwain’s request for an appeal. Finnegan has heard the term before. Other lands used it to describe someone asking to be tried once more for the crimes they committed. Sometimes the King`s sentence could be overturned. Finnegan knew that Zwain could not prove one way or the other that he was guilty or innocent, so the wizard could very well have complete control over the man’s fate as he rotted in that dungeon.

With a sly grin growing on his sharp pointed face, Finnegan said, “Well now, Master Zwain, let’s give this appeal process of yours a try.”

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